Girls clinch postseason; Win over Farmington secures tournament bid

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

Farmington players never knew what hit them. From the opening whistle, Southington defenders clamped down on their conference rival. They stepped into passing lanes. They trapped at mid-court. When the horn blew at the end of the first quarter, Farmington still hadn’t scored a single point.

On Monday, Jan. 7, the Lady Knights had a mission. They led by as many as 16 points in the first half. They held off a Farmington surge after the break, and they moved into first place in the conference standings with a 45-36 win.

More importantly, the girls secured their eighth win at the season’s midpoint. Now, the team can set its sights on the conference title, postseason seedings, and a potential home game.

“It’s our first goal,” said Southington coach Mike Forgione. “This conference is seven or eight deep, so it’s not going to get any easier…but we’re going to take it one practice and one game at a time. I was really proud of their effort, especially after playing that emotional game on Friday night at NW Catholic.”

The game capped a four-game stretch for the Knights over seven days, and it served as a good mid-term exam for Southington’s thin bench. Stephanie O’Keefe converted a pair of three-pointers and paced the Knights with 13 points. Danielle Charamut finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Maeghan Chapman scored seven. With just nine players on the varsity roster, there’s little room for error. O’Keefe said that the seniors have embraced the challenge.

“We’ve shown that we’re tough, and we’re not going to give in. We don’t care how tired we are, we’ll just play,” said O’Keefe. “We each do different things. I’m more of the shooter. Meg’s tough on defense, and Danielle’s the one we look to score inside. We know how each other plays, so we can recognize that and work towards each other’s strengths.”

Forgione said that teamwork is the key to Southington’s success, and it’s the biggest reason why the Knights have secured a postseason berth with half of the season remaining.

“We don’t have any individuals. For us to be successful, we have to play as one unit,” said the coach. “We had a hiccup against Windsor, and we talked about it. We were trying to take the first shot instead of the best shot. We cleaned that up, and we’ve been playing together as a team. The results are showing.”

Despite their early dominance, Southington had to fight for the victory in the second half. The Knights held the double digit lead throughout the third quarter, but Farmington opened the final period with an 8-0 rally to cut their deficit to six points. The Knights answered with a 6-0 run of their own, and held on for a nine-point victory.

“We knew that Farmington would come out with pressure in the second half. They’re well-coached, and they weren’t going to quit after their slow start,” said Forgione. “They didn’t. They made a run. They have some athletic kids, but we answered when we had to. Beating NW Catholic and Farmington in four days is quite an accomplishment for our kids.”

On Thursday, the streak came to an end. In a back-and-forth battle at Hall, Southington’s five-game winning streak came to an end. Charamut powered the Knights with 18 points, but the Warriors held Chapman and O’Keefe to just eight points in the contest. Kaitlin Paterson added five, but Hall held on for a 33-31 win.

With the loss, Southington fell to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the CCC West. With games against Simsbury and New Britain this week, the Knights have a chance to secure sole possession of first place in the conference race. Forgione said that it won’t be easy.

“These kids are doing great, and I’m really excited about the rest of the season,” he said. “We have to keep the intensity. These kids are just great examples of student-athletes in the way that they work in the classroom and on the court. I think they’re really excited right now, and I’m not anticipating any letdown. They worked hard for this, and they want to keep it going.”

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

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